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Five letters with medical details of Royal Free patients sent out to wrong patient

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:56 06 October 2016

The Royal Free Hospital is at the centre of a data breach. Picture: PA/Anthony Devlin

The Royal Free Hospital is at the centre of a data breach. Picture: PA/Anthony Devlin

PA Archive/PA Images

A patient received multiple letters with the medical and personal details of other Royal Free Hospital patients in a huge breach of confidentiality

A gastroenterology patient from Gospel Oak received a bulging envelope with “private and confidential” letters addressed to other patients along with her own letter.

The five extra letters, seen by the Ham&High, include the medical histories and diagnoses of four people.

The mistake, believed to be a clerical error, breaches the most basic principle of doctor-patient confidentiality.

One of the patients is just 13 years old and another is 70.

The letters were sent out by the gastroenterology and allergy clinics of the hospital.

They are from Royal Free consultants and specialist nurses and are addressed to the patients’ GPs, as well as the patients themselves.

Details of prescriptions and test results are included.

The Gospel Oak patient said she believed the “fat” envelope might have contained her test results.

When she opened it and saw the other letters, she was in shock.

The 43-year-old did not read them and is now calling on the Royal Free to take action.

“It’s horrific – what if my stuff goes somewhere else? It’s a horrendous clinical error.”

She added: “Luckily I’m an honest person because if that got into the wrong hands... You can open an account, it’s got their date of birth, addresses.”

The mother-of-one is now concerned about what happened to the Royal Free appointment letters which she never received.

On two occasions in the past two years, she had calls about an appointment which she did not know about.

Leila Roy, councillor for Belsize, was shocked when she heard, describing it as a “breach of trust”.

“If I go to the hospital, I don’t want the neighbours to know what’s wrong with me.”

The Ham&High has returned the letters to the Royal Free.

A hospital spokeswoman said: “We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and have launched an investigation into this incident.

“We would like to apologise to the patients affected. We are in the process of contacting those patients to inform them. We will be taking steps to ensure this error does not occur again.”

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